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What Silence Means to Someone With Selective Mutism


Living with selective mutism and social anxiety, I see and experience silence differently from the rest of the world.

The definition of silence from Google is a “complete absence of sound.” The synonyms are: quietness, quiet, quietude, still, stillness, hush, tranquility, noiselessness, soundlessness, peacefulness, peace (and quiet).

The silence that comes from selective mutism is an absence of sound and is quiet, but it is not peaceful, tranquil or calm.

My silence comes from the opposite. There is nothing peaceful about having an anxiety disorder. It can be terrifying. My mind is definitely not silent. In my experience, “silence” can mean the exact opposite of what the dictionary and many people say it is.

I often hear that “silence is golden.” Sure, being a good listener is a good trait to have. Being able to listen well has helped me, but having a difficult time talking is frustrating and unhelpful.

I would advise people be careful about what they say about people with selective mutism. Growing up, I had a lot of people asking me why I was so quiet, as if I would magically be able to respond to them. Often, they mistook it for me being sweet and innocent, especially as I began talking.

Not that those characteristics were wrong, but they were wrong about my silence.

Follow this journey on the author’s blog.

Photo by Kat Jayne from Pexels